Industry Profile: Draplin Design Co Aaron Draplin

22 Jun, 2010

Name: Aaron James Draplin, Age: 36

Job Title: Graphic Arts Category, Illustration, Friendship, Clipping Pathery, Garying, Jokes/Laughter, Campfire Strummin’, Gocco Dynamics, Road Trip Navigation, Trust, Guitar Tuning, Gen’l Conversation, Culture Critique, Color Correcting, Existential Wondering, Bounty Hunting, Heavy Lifting, Advice, A Warm Meal, Simple Ideas and Occasional Usage of Big Words.

Employer: Myself! But of course, with trusting hands guiding me, I roll the sleeves up for the likes of Coal Headwear, Union Binding Co., Richmond Fontaine, Wired, Timberline, Chunklet, Incase, Giro, Cobra Dogs, Burton Snowboards, Hughes Entertainment, Nike, Chuck Prophet, Field Notes and even the Obama Administration, if you can believe that. All in a good day’s work.

Years on snow: I started riding in 1986 on a plastic Coleco banana board thing. No straps. Just a rope to hold on to. I promptly hung it all up in 1998, after a decade plus of ripping the shit out of the MIdwest and then the West. I was done. I achieved what I wanted to achieve and was more than ready to try a whole new thing out: The City. So to answer the question, it’d be 1986-1998, like, full time!

Days on snow: When we moved out west, we went riding every day. So what was that? Like, 180 days a year? It wasn’t about adding up the days, it was just “what we did.” We were snowboarders and we went riding every day. It was our life. These days, it’s a big, lumpy “zero.” I had my time, reached the heights I wanted to reach and promptly quit. On to the next thing, you know?

Currently Riding: A big, black Herman Miller Aeron chair (large ass edition) that was a gift was a client of mine, who’s in the “headwear business.” We can’t elaborate further, but our ass thanks them forever.

Currently I am: In Portland, chained to the desk, working on these projects:

01. New identity for a new San Francisco-based pastry shop.
02. Field Notes summer projects.
03. A 7-inch record for Audraglint records.
04. T-shirt designs for a local software company.
05. A pizza place identity for a new pie shop coming soon to Burnside. Open late!
06. A surprise birthday card for a rotgut buddy.
07. An identity for Farmer’s Brewing, Shawano, Wisc. Best beer there!
08. Coal Headwear’s 2010-2011 advertising.
09. Union Binding Company’s 2010-2011 advertising.
10. Coal Headwear’s 2010-2011 website.
11. Union Binding Company’s 2010-2011 website.
12. A business card for Busy Beaver Button Co., Chicago, Ill.
13. A logo for a junk pick-up company in Kansas.
14. Medical icons for a Bay Area-based magazine that rhymes with “Tired.”

Shay: Tell us a little bit about yourself
Aaron: I’m usually busy as hell with work stuff, and love every minute of it. When I’m not working, I’m sleeping. I mean, that’s really kind of how it is. I just love this shit. I’m just always thinking about this stuff and keep my Field Notes close so I can jot down an idea if the lightning strikes inside the thinker.

Shay: How has snowboarding changed your life?
Aaron: In some respects, it allowed me to “grow up” in a fun way. Instead of getting locked in some dead end job, or toiling away my youth playing video games, or getting a bunch of DUIs, snowboarding brought me out west as a youngster and opened up a whole world to me. West coast culture, “fun” as a day job, bands, traveling, adventure. And the cool part was, being a mere 19 and starting a new life, it also taught me how to fend for myself. You know, basics like paying bills and saving for season passes and shit.

Making pizza back home would have never opened any door like snowboarding did for me.

Shay: How did you get your start in the industry, who or what opened up more opportunities for you?
Aaron: I got my first call our first winter out west, 1993-1994 to do a graphic for Solid snowboards. I illustrated a “pit crew” graphic for the Jeff Wastell pro model. The graphic had my roommates in various poses working on a Mystery Machine van, which was so fun to see it come to life and be printed on the board. So I owe a whole lot TC buddy Matt Hale and to Solid’s Neil Rankin for believing in the me in 1993. Thanks, fellas.

Shay: How has your previous education or work experience helped you in your current job?
Aaron: The attaining of my degree was more important than the actual getting of the degree. It taught me to never give up. I haven’t used that piece of paper’s firepower once in my so-called professional career. As in, there’s never been a time when me having a degree made some big difference. It’s always come down to this: Are you good at what you do, and are you a stand-up motherfucker? I’m confident I’ve got the second part down.

My degree is a feather in my cap, but just for me and my family. I earned a Bachelor’s degree! Very proud. Plus, I paid that sonofabitch of a school loan off! How about them apples?!

Shay: Tell us about your role at Draplin Design Co and a description of the work you do?
Aaron: I own the enterprise! My description of what I do? I do everything. Whatever the hell it takes.

I take great pride in writing that. Like I have any other choice? I’ve been very, very lucky to get to a place where I get(key word) to work with incredible folks whom I love as much as the projects they trust me with.

So here’s what I do: I make logos, I back shit up, I think up photoshoots, I make sure people show up, I figure what goes where on a web site, I build catalogs, I make patterns for clothing, I dream up wild estimates for my services, I execute with lethal precision, I go for it, I fuck shit up, I completely fall on my face, I get back up, I go for the fuckin’ gold, I daydream about how long this life is going to be, I hope for another 100 years to do EVERYTHING I want to get away with…

Shay: What’s an average day like at work for you?
Aaron: Up by about 9am and down to the shop by 9:30am or so. Then, it’s an all-out cage match filled with client work, fun work, web surfing, talking on the phone, scavenging lunch, whatever. I don’t really have a “work day” with specific hours. I wake up, get to work and do what it takes, all day. I usually get home around 9 or 10. Sometimes I’ll go later. Sometimes I’ll wake up at 5am, so fired up and I be down to the shop hammering away while the clients are slumbering. Sometimes, I’ll go wayyyy late, burning the midnight oil. There’s something cool about watching the sun come up. Always is.

Shay: What are some memorable experiences from working in the industry?
Aaron: The first time I saw a board with my graphics on it! I was at Mt. Baker and saw a kid whip by with a Solid I did earlier that winter, and about shit. That was my work under his feet! Incredible! I wanted to go tackle the guy and tell him it was mine, but had to refrain myself. I was just so excited my stuff on something real. And to this day, I still feel that excitement about this stuff.

Of course, realizing that I made my living on something I loved so much was an incredible awakening. This would have been about 2004.

Shay: What do you think are the biggest challenges that the snowboard industry faces and what changes would you like to see for the future?
Aaron: Selling enough shit to keep us alive!

Having enough rich parents with rich kids to buy this crap, too. I mean, hell, let’s get down to brass tacks…I wasn’t one of those kids, and had to work hard to save for my shit. Just who exactly keeps this stuff alive? I’d like to think its a station wagon full of asshole of kids wearing whatever is on hand and out to do one thing, “Have fun.” That was my experience, and I hold it close. But in all honesty, that’s just a smidge of the big picture. So go thank that Uncle who bought a new board, rode it once, then went back to selling insurance. Something like that.

Shay: Education vs Experience…which do you think is more important?
Aaron: Both are, but at different times. Like anything, timing is crucial. You get out of high school and college is knocking at yer door. We say, “Fuck it, go ride.” That’s when you are the healthiest, and dumbest, and it’ll be the funnest. You can always go back to school after a couple years of living it up somewhere. Leave the nest as young as you can and get an education in “being a snowboarder.” Don’t let school cloud that dream up. Let the experience you bring to the table be an authentic life riding, and not just talking about it or pretending to understand it. Motherfucker’s will smell it on you a mile away, and I often do.

Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to work in the industry?
Aaron: Before you get a job, cut yer teeth in the mountains first. Go learn how to ride ALL the conditions from sheet ice to knee-deep pow to rainy days to blue bird spring slushfests. Riding knowledge will inform whatever industry gig you get. Plus, you’ll have a rippin’ time with yer friends for a couple years. This is mandatory. Throw it all away and get lost in the west somewhere.

Me, I got to the point where simply hearing a Bob Marley song playing in some half-baked coffee shop or whatever was enough to make me want to spit. Those little towns are for rich kids and rich families. Be a scrub and work the place over for a couple years. Milk it for all it’s worth and ride like a beast. Then, never go back.

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About the author


From the beginning of time, I was Shannon. From the beginning of snowboarding, I was Shay. From the beginning of online communities, I was Shayboarder. In the end, I’m the writer, photographer, editor, publisher, guru of sorts, product tester, curvy girl, and most importantly the snowboarder behind it all. Follow me on this journey through snowboarding, mountain biking, traveling and fun experiences!

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  1. June 22, 2010

    hell yes. ddc forever

  2. June 22, 2010

    Nice job on the student loans, way to be a standup motherfucker and pay that off… im still working on building up my loans, paying them off will have to wait

  3. erose
    June 23, 2010

    what a sack of shit

  4. June 24, 2010

    Is Draplin still doing design for Snowboard Mag? or did that rag loose everybody?

  5. June 27, 2010

    Inspirational, Brash, no bulls**t. A great insight.

  6. May 04, 2011

    Yo Aaron- I’m diggin the hell out of your blog. I see it every few days and eventually expect to get some sort of logo making inspiration from it! Hasn’t happened yet but its been good so far 🙂